20 Feb

Just Keep Swimming?

water-scorpion

With large pedipalps used for grabbing prey and a long tail tipped with a poisonous stinger, the last thing you want crawling around in your bed at night is a scorpion. If you decide to take a refreshing dip in a pond, the last insect you would expect to see is a scorpion. Unfortunately, your expectations are not founded in reality. If you look close enough in the murky depths of your favorite pond, you will find the nefarious water scorpion. They live throughout America and on every continent in the world except Antarctica.

Wait, scorpions can swim?
Before you drain your pool, you need to know that the water scorpion is not really a scorpion. The scorpions you see in movies and in the desert are arachnids. Yup, spiders are their sinister cousins. The water scorpion is not an arachnid; it has six legs and is classified as an insect. Furthermore, water scorpions are terrible swimmers. Though they can swim in short bursts, they prefer to walk. They walk along submerged vegetation, across the bottom of ponds, and backwater channels looking for prey. If you ever see a water scorpion, you will immediately know how they got their name. They look like scorpions.

Claws and Tails
Like the scorpion, the water scorpion has arms (pedipalps) for grabbing prey. They also have a long tail. However, the tail on a water scorpion is not equipped with a stinger. The water scorpion uses its tail like a snorkel. In shallow water, it can raise its tail to the surface and breathe. Snorkeling is fun, yet if you had to attach a tube for your backside, the fun would rapidly disappear. Water scorpions can hold their breath for 30 minutes. Since they are slow moving, this gives them plenty of time to find a good spot to ambush prey. Those large arms help them grab the unsuspecting.

Though water worms and insect larva are their primary diet, they will eat tadpoles and small fish. Once their meal is captured, they use their proboscis (sucking mouth part) to puncture the prey and inject digestive proteins and a neurotoxin. The toxin immobilizes the victim, and the digestive proteins turn the insides to a frothy soup. The water scorpion then uses it straw-like mouth to suck up the inner body broth. A desiccated husk will be all that is left of the prey. Some species of water scorpion come equipped with wings. If their pond dries up, they can fly to the next.

Do they bite?
The answer is yes. If anything has a mouth, it can bite you. However, bites from water scorpions are not common. They do not want to waste their venom on something they can’t eat. That being said, you can still feel the wrath of a water scorpion. If you find one and have the urge to disturb the creature without cessation, you will get bit. Water scorpions bite if they feel their life is in danger. Their bite is very painful. As long as you don’t touch them, they won’t bite you. If you see a water scorpion, just keep swimming.

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